The 16th National Independence Day, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, became a federal holiday last year. However, at the national level, governments differ significantly in whether they observe it as an official holiday, a memorial day, or something in between.
June 16 is the newest federal holiday in the United States and one that is celebrated differently across states. We looked at which states have introduced June 16 as an official holiday, declared it a holiday, or did something in between.
We have chosen to focus on states that observe June 16 as an official holiday – which means state offices are closed and state employees are given a paid day off. Our primary sources for this analysis were government administrative, human resources, and human resources websites, most of which publish lists of official government holidays. We supplemented these lists with an analysis of news reports of local June 16 celebrations.
The New Mexico legislature added June 16, 2006 as an official state holiday, observed on the third Saturday in June. In 2022, it became a paid public holiday for government employees for the first time. In Illinois, on June 16, state employees only get paid leave if it falls on a weekday. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey approved June 16 as a public holiday this year and in 2021, but the state legislature must pass legislation to make it a permanent official state holiday. It is one of at least three states where a governor’s proclamation has designated the state holiday.
Juneteenth is a combination of the words June and nineteenth. It commemorates the day, more than two months after the end of the Civil War, when enslaved black Americans were notified of their freedom in Galveston, Texas. It’s now one of 11 official federal holidays — or 12 for federal employees in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas during the presidential inauguration years — meaning federal employees get a paid day off and there’s no mail delivery. Most federal offices are closed on federal holidays, as are most banks and the bond markets that deal in US Treasuries. Stock markets generally remain open, as do most retailers and other businesses, although this varies by federal holiday.
At the state level, at least 24 states and the District of Columbia will legally recognize June 16 as a holiday this year — meaning state government offices are closed and state employees have a paid day off, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Statesmen Resources- Websites, state legislation and news articles. That number will increase next year: Connecticut will legally recognize June 16 as a holiday starting in 2023. Some other states are considering legislation to make the day an official holiday.
Most states where June 16 is a public holiday only recently added it to their calendar. In fact, all but one added it as an official holiday in 2020 or later. The exception is Texas, where the holiday originated and where it is also known as Emancipation Day. June 16 has been celebrated locally in Texas since the 1860s and became an official state holiday there in 1980.
Public awareness of Juneteenth grew in 2020 amid nationwide protests following the police killings of several black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. President Joe Biden signed into law in June 2021 making June 16 a federal holiday.
In addition to DC and the states where June 16 is an official holiday, other states give the day off to certain workers but have not declared it a public holiday. In 2019, for example, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared June 16 an “official annual celebration” and a paid day off for state employees under his jurisdiction. And in North Carolina, some state employees can take a floating holiday on a day of “cultural, religious, or personal significance,” including June 16.
Every state has at some point passed a resolution that at least recognizes June 16 as a holiday – even those that do not count June 16 as their official holiday. In fact, with the exception of Texas, all states that currently recognize the day as a holiday marked June 16 in this manner, years before it became an official state holiday granting state employees a paid day off. Florida, Oklahoma, and Minnesota were the first states outside of Texas to celebrate June 16 as a public holiday in the 1990s. New Mexico has recognized June 16 as a public holiday since 2006, observed on the third Saturday in June. In 2022, it became paid leave for government employees for the first time.
South Dakota, North Dakota, and Hawaii were the last states to officially recognize Juneteenth. The day was not observed in South Dakota until 2020, when the governor declared it a public holiday. June 16 has been a public holiday in Hawaii and North Dakota since last year.
June 16 is also becoming a public holiday in major US cities. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix recently declared the day an official paid public holiday for city workers. In addition to June 16, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16 in honor of the day – nearly nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation – that Abraham Lincoln freed the enslaved people living in DC